Tag Archives: PLN

Putting the “P” into my PLN

Thanks to a tweet from Andrew Williamson and Mel Cashen, who are currently working as coaches for the Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century course being run by DEECD, I was posed a series of reflective questions about how my thoughts around having a Personal Learning Network [PLN].

This lead to me creating and uploading my first YouTube video that I filmed using my iPad and edited with iMovie and Keynote.

I’m hoping I’ll get time to work on answers to the other questions and create a few more videos soon.



Changing the face of professional learning

Several people within my PLN have written recently around the theme of Staff Professional Learning. (See works here by Margo and Edna)  Their articles, combined with conversations at Tweet Ups and Teach Meets (and time to think over the holidays!) have led me to reflect on how I deliver professional learning within my school and changes I would like to implement.

Image from author’s personal collection













Using data to inform decisions and direction:
As part of our work in achieving eSmart accreditation, one of the domains focuses on the collection of data and makes reference to teacher’s ICT capabilities. To support this, I have used the DEECD ePotential Survey Tool to administer and collect data about how teaching and non-teaching staff view and use ICT. (As a side, I agree that this survey tool is now somewhat out-dated, so if you are using an alternative tool to collect data about your teacher’s ICT Capabilities I’d love to know)

I then export the survey results to Excel and ‘crunch’ the data to produce a report that summarises the survey results and helps me determine where we need to focus our efforts. I hope that by using this data to inform the direction and theme of Professional Learning sessions, staff will be able to see the physical benefits of completing the survey.

One size does NOT fit all.
Just like students in classroom environment, there are huge variations between where staff are at. In a classroom environment, we wouldn’t deliver the same lesson or activity to all; we would provide options that cater for individual learning needs.

Where possible and appropriate, I see the professional learning sessions operating as workshops that teachers will be able to ‘sign up’ for that meet their particular interests or professional learning needs.

Drawing upon ‘inside’ knowledge….
The Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders talks about the need for “teachers take responsibility for, and actively engage in, professional learning in order to build the capacity and that of others.”

As the ICT leading teacher, I am the one at the moment delivering the majority of profession learning that relates to ICT. As we are a new school, the majority of our staff come from previous educational environments and bring a wealth of experience and expertise. I have previously tapped into the experience and expertise of others, but I’m hoping that this model for professional learning will do more of that. I also see it as a chance to empower and increase the capacity of others by give them opportunities to lead and the experience of presenting in front of others.

….whilst bringing in “outside world”.
Whilst there is a great deal of knowledge within my school, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers and tap into the knowledge and experiences of others outside your environment, to prevent becoming insular and to provide an alternative perspective.

In an interview with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Fredrick Brown had this to say on the use of social media to support Professional Learning:

People learn best when they are learning with others.  Social media gives them an opportunity to do that and make their learning very public; so all of a sudden you are not learning in isolation.  If you have a question, you can get answers to those questions from others who have experienced the same issues.

All of a sudden you have access to a community that goes beyond your School.  So what a wonderful world it is when you are no longer sitting there is that class-room, like I remember doing my first (1st) years of teaching alone and not really knowing the answer, afraid to reach out to some of the teachers who are around me, because as a new teacher, I didn’t want to appear like I didn’t know – he should know, he’s just graduated from the University – why doesn’t he know?

Social media allows me to reach out and to gain access to knowledge and expertise beyond my school walls.

I have a fantastic PLN through Twitter and other online networks that I would love to ‘bring in’ either physically or digitally via Elluminate and Skype to share their knowledge. I would also love to educate teachers about the power of twitter and other social networking sites to connect with others, form their own personal learning networks and continue their own professional learning journey.

Briefing the presenters:
Initially, I see the need to meet with those presenting to make clear what would be expected from their workshop sessions. Providing support materials (checklists, presentation templates…) will also help with this process.

“Selling” the idea:
For many, this will be different and a change from what they are used to. It will require some selling (I’m thinking of a video) and pitching of the idea to get people on board. It will also take some wording up of others who have been previous supports to help get others on board (Think: “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” video) and help sell the idea.

Managing the ‘sign up’ process:
I’m trying to think of a way to manage the signup process for the workshop sessions. I want it to be digital so staff can sign up at a time and location and suits them. I’ve been looking into Eventbrite allows you to create an event for free (on the condition that you don’t charge admission for it). I also like the way it “looks” – it comes across very professional and feels very much like a major event or conference.

When setting up your event, the process allows you to create different ‘tickets’ for your event. I see each of our Professional Learning sessions being ‘an event’ and the different workshops offered being available through different ‘tickets’. The software allows you to limit the number of people who can obtain tickets for a particular event; this would be handy for some sessions in terms of limiting numbers to ensure a more personal and intimate learning experience. It is also possible to include additional information about each of sessions. This would be a chance to explain the learning intention, success criteria and any pre-requisites or actions required prior to attending the workshop session.

With the session created, you can then generate e-mail invitations for staff to log in and register for their sessions. The site also allows you to print your ticket or if you have the app installed in your mobile device, you can download it to your ticket.

On the day of the event, you can print a list of the people who have registered for each workshop.

Prior to attending….
Professional Learning time within schools is limited and often a lot of time is lost in getting people to sign up and register for new online tools or download new programs to use.

Presenters will need to specify what needs to be done prior to session in order to maximise hands-on learning time. This knowledge could be communicated via information sheets that include screen shots or through creating screencasting videos.

Hands on, social, collaborative:
Sessions will not be “chalk and talk” or “death by powerpoint”. There will be opportunities for participants to engage with each other and practice skills that have been taught with the support of others around them. I’d like to see the use of a a shared Google Doc for collaborative note taking and a twitter hashtag for people to share their thinking and their learning as the presentation is taking place.

Have a “Call to Action”:
The professional learning session won’t be a ‘one off’; a requirement of each session will be a ‘call to action’ where participants will need to utilise their new learning back in the classroom environment.

Time for feedback, reflection and sharing:
A follow-up session in future weeks will allow participants the opportunity to share their experiences with others, discuss problems they encountered and ask further questions. I also feel this expectation will hold people accountable for taking action.

At the conclusion of each session, the participants will complete a short survey to provide feedback to the presenter about the content and style of their presentation, details of what they learnt and ways they can use the new learning. (The eventbrite software also allows manage survey responses following an event) The presenter will also complete a self-reflection on their session to identify strengths and areas of opportunity for future presentations. I’d also like to see some sort of coaching\reflection conversation to support the presenter, reflect on the experience and identify possible areas for improvement.


How do you\does your school deliver professional learning ?

Do you use a workshop model like this ? What have you found to be the strengths\challenges with an approach like this ?

Do you have a totally different model for professional learning ?


A reflection on 2011

Having recovered from the end of school madness, Christmas and the New Year, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and rest for a few days and catch up on some blogs in my Google Reader. I’ve really enjoyed reading posts (and posts and posts) from both friends and members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) about their reflections from the past year and how it has helped them set goals and directions for the coming year. I’ve always been one to set goals and targets for the year, but have never really reflected on my achievements from the year before. So, thanks to some help from my Outlook calendar, the following jumped out at me as achievements throughout 2011:

Photo created by Carol Browne - Used as part of a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

Photo created by Carol Browne. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

New School – New Role:

Part of moving to a new school saw me take a new role; that of the ICT Specialist Teacher. This was a big change for me, having been a class teacher since the beginning of my teaching career.  This experience has taught me a lot; particulary about the value of time. As a classroom teacher I had the freedom and flexibility to move and manage time throughout the day depending on the activity and the outcomes I wanted to achieve. As a specialist teacher, I only get to see each class for 1 hour a week, so this simply is not possible. It has taught me to “cut the waffle” when explaining tasks and be much more succinct in communicating information so students can have more “time on task”. It has also required me to develop the student’s skills in becoming self directed learners and to create resources and provide access to materials that allow for this to occur.

I have also loved the learning curve I had been on. Having never taught ICT has required me to research lots, draw upon my own experience and the knowledge of my PLN to develop my program. Highlights would include the cybersafety movie making exercise I attempted in Term 1, seeing students develop their own Scratch projects and finally getting my Prep classes to log on.

Establishing a new student council:

Regular readers of my blog will know that student leadership and student councils are an area of passion for me so it has been really exciting to establish the a student council at a brand new school.

Given we were a new school, it took us until mid Term 2 before things were well and truly up and running.

Highlights of the year included students developed campaign posters in the lead up to the election and using the Victorian Electoral Commission to help run elections. I had used the Electoral Commission at my previous schools and was excited to be able introduce the students and staff to the experience with many commenting on the professional nature of the election.

2011 was also the first year I worked with students outside of Grade 5 & 6 on a student council. I really enjoyed having younger students on board and to provide an alternative perspective and to offer their support. The majority of them were keen to take on jobs and roles and with a little bit of coaching and support demonstrated they are capable of achieving great results.

Towards the end of the 2011, we also held our 2012 elections, enabling our student council to be operating from day 1 of 2012.

Online Assemblies:

Through my work as a Web Conference Leader in 2010, I trained students in my class in the use of the web conferencing software, Blackboard Collaborate (previously known as Elluminate) so we could run an online school assembly.

I have been able to continue this at my new school in 2011 and have again trained some students to help in the running of the assembly. This has now become embedded in the culture of our school, with an online assembly operating each fortnight. It’s been great to see teachers and students exposed to this technology and to also have members of our school community that would otherwise be unable to attend school events log in from home, work or wherever they might be.


Having lead the introduction the Ultranet at my previous school, it was great to be able to apply my learning from previous mistakes made when we went about setting things up and going about student registrations.  By the end of 2011 we successfully registered all of our Grade 1-6 students (being aprox. 300 students).

Another great advantage of starting at a new school has been the ability to use the Ultranet in establishing processes and procedures. Rather than make the transition from one process to another, it has been far easier in using the Ultranet from the beginning. Through the community space I developed, staff have been able to add school events as well as book rooms and resources using the calendars and post meeting minutes using a blog. I consider this to be a great achievement in our first year.

One of  greatest challenges we faced being a new school was the flow of our data from CASES21. I was hoping to do a great deal more with students and the Ultranet earlier in the year, however numerous technical difficulties set us back and meant that we truly didn’t get to it until mid Term 3. Having said that, I have been really excited about the use of Learning Tasks and hope that I will able to build upon this next year.

Acting Assistant Principal:

OK, so maybe it was just for two days, but it was an experience I really enjoyed and one I hope to get the opportunity to do again. The experience gave me insight into the bigger picture of our school and understand why sometimes they just don’t get to your issues when they do. It was amazing the number of issues and tasks I was required to do in two days.

Presenting at the Innovations Showcase:

After a gentle nudge from a few people in my PLN, I submitted an application to present at the 2011 Innovation Showcase run by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. My presentation focused on the work I had done with student councils at my previous school and sharing some of the valuable resources out there to support SRC Teacher Advisers.

Increasing Network:

Moving school has also seen me become involved the ICT Network that exists within our local cluster of schools. Again this has been a great source of knowledge from those in the know. I have taken on board many ideas and suggestions from this group in regards to my teaching and have also loved to opportunity to share my own experiences and knowledge.

Twitter once again has proved to be invaluable in providing professional knowledge. I was please to learn about the experiences of those who attended to Google Teacher Acadamy in Sydney at their Meet Up session and finally put some faces to twitter names. The Melbourne #TeachMeet session towards the start of Term 3 was another great opportunity to meet members of my PLN and share and learn from others.

Ultranet Share N Tell:

I feel really privileged and proud to work alongside Anne Mirtschin and Mel Cashen in delivering these online sessions. It’s great to always see and hear what others are doing with Ultranet to spark your own ideas. Wendy Macpherson and Graeme Henchel from the Ultranet team at Central office have been invaluable in offering their insight into updates and developments taking place and have always been willing to hear suggestions and ideas from those using the Ultranet within their schools and classrooms. With the loss of our Ultranet Coaches in 2012, I can only expect that the demand for these session will increase (and see the UltraTweeps Teacher’s Games team increase and take out the gold medal in Laser Tag!)


The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors has continued to move along and has been involved in some interesting projects throughout the year. A major highlight was initiating a discussion around the establishment of a state based Junior School Council for primary school students. Whilst this had been something many of us in the field had been thinking about, it was great to get some of the key stakeholders together and get some ideas down on paper. Other highlights include working with Joel Arrons to develop the VISTA Podcast, the presentation of the inaugural VISTA Award for outstanding SRC Teacher Advisor at the VicSRC annual Congress and being involved in providing teacher professional development sessions at the Junior School Council congress sessions across the state.

Personally, I also achieved many things throughout 2011. Having worked in the education system for over 7 years now, I was able to access my Long Service Leave pro-rata and used this across the Melbourne Cup Weekend to attend a close friends wedding in Sydney. Melbourne Cup weekend in previous years has involved me chained to my computer for 3 days writing end-of-year reports. Taking leave made me realise that through some strategic organisation (and a last minute marathon effort!) it was possible to take some time off and still get my reports done.

Another major development has been selling my house. Having lived in my local area for just under thirty years of my life and with most of my friends and family now living on the western side of the state or closer to the city, I felt it was time to move on. We’re hoping to find a nice townhouse or apartment closer to Melbourne and enjoy the benefits associated with inner-city living. With settlement taking place in just a few more days, we’ve been fortunate in finding a place to stay in the meantime whilst we continue what seems like a never ending search for the right place to live.

So, with 2011 well and truly completed, it’s time to focus on 2012 and the year ahead. I have numerous thoughts and ideas swimming around in my head about what I hope to achieve both professionally and personally throughout the year and hope to post some of them with you soon.

What were your achievements throughout 2011 ?

What goals do you have for 2012 ? What are you looking forward to ?